Subject: UNHCR expects 25,000 more E. Timorese to return home

The Jakarta Post 
July 11, 2002

UNHCR expects 25,000 more E. Timorese to return home

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, 
Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expects to see half of the remaining 50,000 East Timorese refugees currently taking shelter in neighboring East Nusa Tenggara to enter the repatriation program.

A UNHCR representative in Indonesia, Bob White, said on Wednesday that to promote the program, the world body had planned a regular visit of East Timor people to the refugee camps scattered across the Indonesian province and vice versa.

"We hope that through the exchange visits at least half of the remaining refugees will return home by the end of the year," White said after a meeting with Governor Piet A. Tallo.

UNHCR will stop its humanitarian mission in West Timor at the end of this year.

Provincial administration data has revealed that some 20,000 East Timorese were repatriated between September 2001 and June 2002.

White is visiting East Nusa Tenggara to talk with the provincial administration about priority measures to deal with the refugees, who have been taking shelter in the province for almost three years.

"Technically, repatriation remains the most important of our priority measures, although the possibility is wide open for the Indonesian government to resettle the refugees," White said.

Indonesia has set an Aug. 31 deadline for the East Timorese to choose between repatriation and resettlement.

The Office of the Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare and the Udayana Military Command have planned to build 800 houses across East Nusa Tenggara for East Timor refugees who wish to remain in the country.

Outgoing Udayana Military commander Maj. Gen. Willem T. da Costa said on Tuesday that the houses would mostly go to families of former East Timorese servicemen and civil servants.

"The construction project is aimed at accelerating the refugee settlement program, which has continued unabated for almost three years," said Willem, who will move to Bandung as the head of the Army's staff and command school.

The houses will be built in Kupang, Belu, North Central Timor and South Central Timor regencies.

Willem said 62 East Timorese who had joined the Army had expressed their intention to leave Indonesia for their homeland.

Responding to reports of some 1,500 unreturned East Timorese children, White said UNHCR was still working with both the Indonesian and East Timor governments and nongovernmental organizations to reunite them with their parents.

He said the world body had found it difficult to detect the whereabouts of the children as they were scattered in various places.

UNHCR has learned that the children have been placed in orphanages across the country since 1999, when violence engulfed the former Portuguese colony following the UN-administered independence vote.


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